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Pension Inequality

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to tackle women's pension inequality. [14325]

Mr. Timms: For today's women pensioners, pension credit has made a significant contribution to tackling the legacy of pension inequality. For younger women, the state second pension, improving opportunities for women in the workplace and the increasing options for pension flexibility have all contributed to ensuring more equal pension rights for future female pensioners. The proportion of women who are now accruing significant second-tier state pensions is similar to that of men.

We want to continue to make progress. Fair outcomes for women and carers is one of our principles for pension reform and will be one of the key factors on which proposals for reform will be judged. To help develop our thinking, we will be holding an event later this year to discuss how to make the pensions system work well for women. Prior to this event, we will publish our analysis of the pension position of women to enable evidence-based discussion.

Pension Service/Benefits Agency

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many complaints have been received
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relating to the loss of (a) birth certificates and (b) other supporting documents sent to the Dundee Pension Service Centre in each year since 2001; whether an internal assessment has been made of the number of (i) birth certificates and (ii) other supporting documents lost at the Dundee Pension Service Centre; and what estimates he has made of the number of (A) birth certificates and (B) other supporting documents lost at each Pension Service Centre for each year since 2001. [14606]

Mr. Plaskitt: In 2004–05 the Dundee Pension Centre handled 92,485 claims to state pension and applications for pension credit and during this period the Royal Mail handled 308,796 items of mail on its behalf. The Dundee Pension Centre regularly analyses data about complaints, in order to identify and resolve any problems as they arise. Where necessary, procedures are changed to improve service delivery.

Between 1 April 2002 and 21 July 2005 the Dundee Pension Centre 70 complaints about lost documents. The data held do not distinguish between types of document.

Information on numbers of complaints before April 2002, when the Pension Service came into being, is not available. Information on the number of documents lost at pension centres is not held centrally.

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effectiveness and security of mail delivery and opening arrangements at (a) the Dundee Pension Service centre and (b) other Pension Service centres. [14607]

Mr. Plaskitt: The opening and distribution of mail in pension centres in Great Britain, whether by in-house teams or external providers, is carried out according to service level agreements or similar terms and conditions. These arrangements are monitored on a regular basis. In addition, the Department has a number of regional contract managers who ensure that agreements are being adhered to and that the security, confidentiality and effectiveness of mail handling arrangements are maintained. We are aware of the value that our customers place in their documentation and so the Pension Service is committed to returning them within five working days.

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many fax machines are sited at the work stations of helpline staff of (a) the Benefits Agency and (b) the Pensions Service. [10267]

Mr. Plaskitt: Jobcentre Plus, which brought together the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service in 2002, operates two national telephone helplines, namely Jobseeker Direct and Employer Direct. All Jobcentre Plus call centres have fax machines, but information on the number of machines is not available. The various telephone services provided by the Pension Service are not regarded as helplines and none of its staff are regarded as helpline staff.


Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the level of
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business pensions which are at risk because of off-balance sheet budgeting by companies; and if he will make a statement. [7646]

Mr. Timms: We have made no such estimate.


Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the publications issued by hisDepartment in each of the last seven years; and what the (a) circulation, (b) cost and (c) purpose of each was. [10478]

Mrs. McGuire: This information is not held centrally and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.


Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will include inherited SERPS from contracted-out pensions in pension forecasts where applicable; [14350]

(2) if he will produce a leaflet giving advice on claiming inherited SERPS for widows or widowers whose spouse was contracted-out of SERPS; [14352]

(3) how many pensioners receive inherited SERPS where the contributing spouse was (a) contracted into and (b) contracted-out of SERPS; [14353]

(4) what estimate he has made of the number of people who do not benefit from an entitlement to inherited SERPS where the contributing spouse was contracted-out of SERPS. [14354]

Mr. Plaskitt: Rights to a state earnings-related pension scheme (SERPS) pension inherited from a deceased spouse, including rights derived from contracted-out employment prior to 6 April 1997, are included in the surviving spouses state pension forecasts where the Department is informed of the person's marital status.

A number of factors, including contracting-out, determine the extent to which state SERPS pension can be inherited. Leaflet SERPSL1 provides general information on inheritance of a SERPS pension and points out that there is an interaction with any contracted-out occupational pension provision accrued prior to 1997. More detailed information is available in leaflet NP46: a guide to State Pensions. We keep the content of our leaflets under review to ensure that the information is accurate.

Information on the total number of people receiving an inherited SERPS pension and whether the deceased spouse, from whose contributions the pension is derived, was contracted-out of SERPS is not available as it is not possible to separately identify the inherited element of a SERPS pension where the recipient is also entitled to a SERPS pension in their own right. Such information as is available is below and relates solely to people whose only entitlement to a SERPS pension is derived from their deceased spouse's contributions.

At 30 September 2004, around 639,200 recipients of category B state pension had potential entitlement to an inherited SERPS pension before any adjustment in respect of their deceased's spouse's contracted-out
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employment was applied. An adjustment was applied in 366,800 cases. Following the adjustment, 1,000 had no entitlement to an inherited SERPS pension and 365,800 had entitlement to a reduced inherited SERPS pension.

Shipyard Workers

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures have been put in place on Tyneside by his Department to help unemployed former shipyard workers (a) retrain for and (b) find another job. [13975]

Mr. Timms: Our flexible employment programmes, such as the new deal, delivered through Jobcentre Plus and work based learning for adults, provide a service that meets the needs of individuals, local areas and local employers and have been a tremendous success in helping to achieve record levels of employment.

In addition to mainstream programmes, Jobcentre Plus has approved rapid response funding in excess of £370,000 to assist customers, made redundant in the shipbuilding industry on Tyneside, through re-training programmes. Such re-training is still continuing and training programmes accessed cover a range of subjects, the most common being offshore survival, safety training passports, rope access courses and upgrading of welding certificates.

Partner organisations who worked alongside Jobcentre Plus to assist those made redundant consisted of; One North East, Government office for the north east, North Tyneside council, South Tyneside council, Business Link, Learning Skills Council and Work Force Development.

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